S. Truett Cathy

Can New York City survive Chick-fil-A invasion? Let's look at Manhattan history!

Can New York City survive Chick-fil-A invasion? Let's look at Manhattan history!

On a personal note: I just finished one of my two-week sojourns teaching journalism at The King's College in New York. As I have mentioned before, if you add up my various duties here I live in lower Manhattan just over two months a year.

I'm not a New Yorker, but I hang out with them a lot -- even in local diners and fast-food joints.

Anyway, at the end of my final seminar session last night one of the students gave me a thank-you card and the perfect gift to sum up life in this neighborhood right now.

It was, of course, a Chick-fil-A gift card.

Don't worry, I will be able to use that card in Oak Ridge, Tenn., even though our town has only one Chick-fil-A sanctuary, compared to New York City's three (with more on the way as part of the much-discussed Bible Belt invasion of the Big Apple).

The bottom line: If was the perfect end to the week. And you will not be surprised that we also talked about the now infamous New Yorker sermon about Chick-fil-A -- "Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City" -- during this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

In my GetReligion post about this whole kerfuffle ("The New Yorker stirs up a storm with analysis of Chick-fil-A evangelism in the Big Apple"), I tried to avoid -- for the most part -- some of the most common themes in the Twitter madness about this piece. Here are three of the more low-key, constructive tweets from that amazing storm:

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Yes, Chick-fil-A opened on Sunday to help stranded fliers in Atlanta (This wasn't a first)

Yes, Chick-fil-A opened on Sunday to help stranded fliers in Atlanta (This wasn't a first)

Thanks to The Drudge Report, the Internet is buzzing with Chick-fil-A news linked to that massive power outage at the massive Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The hook for this blitz of cyber chatter? That would be the fact that the fire that shut down America's busiest airport took place on a Sunday. Thus, it was very symbolic that Chick-fil-A -- an omnipresent reality in Atlanta culture -- came to the rescue.

But most of the news coverage is missing a crucial fact about this Chick-fil-A on Sunday story. You see, this isn't the first time that this conservative company has done this. Can you remember the other emergency that inspired similar action? Think back a year or so ago and, yes, think "religion angle." Hold that thought.

Now, here is the Mashable.com report that, with lots of Twitter inserts, is getting all of that Drudge traffic:

Chick-fil-A, famed for never opening on Sundays and will likely never be, has made an exception.
The fast food chain is stepping in to feed passengers left affected by the Atlanta airport blackout, according to the City of Atlanta. They'll be served at the Georgia International Convention Center, where they are able to stay overnight, which is a pretty nice consolation given what some of these people have gone through. ...
It's a remarkable aberration from the company's policy on Sunday trading hours, rooted in founder Truett Cathy's devout Christian beliefs. The policy remains the same at the Chick-fil-A in the newly opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Its main tenant, the Atlanta Falcons, will only play one regular season game that doesn't fall on a Sunday. ...
See, this is how bad it has to get for Chick-Fil-A to open on a Sunday.

Actually, something is missing from that report and, well, the same angle is missing from most of the other online news reports about the not-on-Sunday angle in other reports.

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Fried-chicken wars: How much should Christianity mix with commerce?

Fried-chicken wars: How much should Christianity mix with commerce?

MICHAEL-ANN ASKS:

Businesses like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A overtly follow Christian principles and thus promote Christianity. Is it profitable for them to have this ‘brand,’ or do you think the CEOs have some deeper evangelical goal?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

These two remarkable corporations are the largest in the U.S. that operate on an explicitly “Christian” basis, and both have been in the news lately.

The Hobby Lobby craft store chain won U.S. Supreme Court approval June 30 of the religious right to avoid the new federal mandate to fund certain birth control methods the owners consider tantamount to abortion.

Sept. 8 brought the death of S. Truett Cathy, billionaire founder of the Chick-fil-A fast-food empire. His New York Times obituary said that to some he was “a symbol of intolerance” and “hate.” Such journalistic labeling stemmed from Cathy’s son and successor Dan criticizing same-sex marriage on biblical grounds in 2012. Afterward, the firm cut donations to groups that back traditional marriage. No-one claimed Chick-fil-A discriminates against gays in hiring or customer service.

With both companies, Christian commitment is accompanied by prosperity, and the question suggests their religious image may be calculated for “profitable” advantage. 

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Death of the Chick-fil-A patriarch: A classic religion-news story with two sides

Death of the Chick-fil-A patriarch: A classic religion-news story with two sides

It's safe to say that Chick-fil-A patriarch S. Truett Cathy was famous, or infamous, for two very different reasons with two radically different flocks of people. After his death, mainstream news organizations faced an obvious news question: What's the lede? What's the angle on this remarkable entrepreneur's life that deserved the spotlight at the top of the story?

You can see that struggle in the summary paragraphs near the top of The New York Times obituary:

Mr. Cathy, who died on Monday at 93, was by all appearances a humble Christian man from Georgia with little education who sold a simple sandwich: a breaded, boneless chicken breast on a soft, white, buttered bun with nothing more than a couple of pickles for garnish.
But as the founder of the Chick-fil-A fast-food empire, he was also a billionaire several times over and, as a conservative Christian who ran his business according to his religious principles, he was at once a hero and a symbol of intolerance. Many admired him for closing his outlets on Sundays and speaking out against same-sex marriage. Others vilified his the chain as a symbol of hate.

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